Moon over Detroit

An al-Qaeda terror attack that could easily have killed hundreds was narrowly averted on Christmas Day, thanks to a malfunctioning detonator and a heroic Dutchman. But, don’t worry; “the system worked perfectly.”

Roey Rosenblith gives his eyewitness account as a passenger on the plane.

Here are some questions worth thinking about:

Richard Fernandez: “One of them was casually revealed by the statement that there are over 500,000 names on an extended terror suspect’s list.  A list with that many records is of limited utility unless it can winnowed down to a tractable set in a given situation.  You really want to be able to use this data to answer specific questions like: is this man related to such and such an event or should this person fly? Simply saying that the terrorist is in the list is like saying the needle is in the haystack. It wasn’t of much use in keeping him off the plane.

So what does the architecture of the data look like? Can you run queries with joins across different agencies or across from the goverment to the private sector? Can you take one of the names on this list of a half million and find out what calls he made on such and such a date or where he’s been? What kind of metadata is in there?”

John Hinderaker: “In pursuit of Obama’s policy of “engagement” with those who hate us, has the administration loosened no-fly restrictions? Has it allowed people like Abdulmutallab to take international flights to the U.S. on the ground they are merely misunderstood ambassadors for a peaceful movement? Is the administration’s soon to be embarked upon review of how the “intelligence community” is “integrating itself” the precursor to a massive transfer of blame from Obama’s radical staffers to intelligence professionals?”

Randy Barnett: “Here is the cold hard fact of the matter that will be evaded and denied but which must never be forgotten in these discussions: Often — whether on an airplane, subway, cruise ship, or in a high school — only self defense by the “unorganized militia” will be available when domestic or foreign terrorists chose their next moment of murder. And here is the public-policy implication of this fact: It would be better if the militia were more prepared to act when it is needed.” Is there a way to offer training to able-bodied adults to help them deal with terror attacks?

Robert Spencer: “Who was the sharply dressed man” who helped Abdulmutallab board the plane in Amsterdam without a passport? “And where is he now?”

Pete Hoekstra (as summarized by Richard Fernandez):

  • Has the al-Qaeda franchise in Yemen made a strategic decision to attack the United States?
  • The Ft Hood shooter was also connected to Yemen, “is there a pattern”?
  • Is US intelligence failing to connect the dots?
  • Is the White House stonewalling on inquiries by the House?
  • Is al-Qaeda evolving techniques to “get [weapons] into other environments where they can do significant damage”?

Here’s one of my own. Has al-Qaeda perceived that Obama is unlikely to respond to a terror attack in any meaningful way, and decided to launch a variety of attacks against the United States using a variety of methods to see which are most effective? There may be a sense that they have little to lose, and much to gain, from such a strategy, since Obama views terrorism as a law-enforcement problem and seems intent primarily on appeasement. The incentive structure encourages greater demands and further attacks.

4 thoughts on “Moon over Detroit

  1. You ask, I answer. To Richard Fernandez’s question, that particular “entry level” database of 550,000 names is the CYA bin, the circular file you never actually empty. Probably occasionally used for cross-checking, but there is obviously no protocol for systematically checking the names proactively to detect other “flags” that would upgrade or toss names. Clearly, if there were, extended stays in Yemen would have boosted this guy up a notch. Even so, a check at the ticket counter should have stopped this guy. It isn’t airline policy, it’s country policy: try getting away with that crap at El-Al. Janet Napolitano is a disgrace and should be fired.

    Today, Obama referred to the “alleged bomb attempt” and the “isolated extremist.” Our commander-in-chief sounds like a defense attorney. I’m sure he’s upset that this might throw a wrench in his plans to fob off Gitmo detainees to what is now Al-Qaeda CentCom in Yemen.

    Obviously al Qaeda is emboldened: Obama is sending detainees to Yemen, even though he KNOWS it’s where operations are being planned. He’s just hoping we won’t notice, kind of like Janet Napolitano and Robert Gibbs hoped we wouldn’t notice that the “system” didn’t work. They really do think we’re morons.

    By the way, did you hear that the various lists were created by the Bush administration? Uh huh: that’s why they don’t work very well.

  2. I suspect you’re right about the database; it may be, too, that firewalls have been recreated that keep various agencies and information sources from being connected.

    Everything we know so far tells us that this fellow is not at all an isolated extremist, but someone acting as part of a coordinated al-Qaeda campaign being directed out of Yemen. When the President says otherwise, it makes him look stupid or duplicitous.

    Why is he planning to send Gitmo detainees to Yemen? Wouldn’t that be like our having captured Nazi spies during World War II and then shipped them to occupied Norway?

    I’ve said this before, but I find it hard to understand Obama’s behavior on this or many other issues under any assumption other than the most disturbing: He’s on the other side. He wants to embolden and strengthen al-Qaeda. He wants to weaken our defenses. I wish I could think of other explanations, but I can’t.

  3. I think Obama’s antipathy toward the United States, and his sympathy for Islam, is rather well documented. I was watching one of those dreadful “best, worst of 2009” shows and one of the categories was “Worst Lie.” Eleanor Clift offered “Obama is a Muslim.” By any standard, if that were a lie, it wouldn’t be the worst one of 2009. I would like to offer “The American people should be assured that we are doing everything in our power to keep you and your family safe and secure during this busy holiday season.” as my number one pick.

  4. Excellent! I agree.

    Something like 25% of Texans, and 60% of Israelis, believe that Obama is a Muslim. Many more must be in my category: having a probability assignment to the proposition that falls short of belief but ranges from “It’s quite possible” to “It’s fairly likely.” I’ve talked to some people who believe he’s Muslim, like a guy who works at my favorite milkshake place, and they have a nuanced view that’s far from Eleanor Clift’s impression. They know he’s nominally a Christian and attended Rev. Wright’s church. But they’re talking about what he is in his heart. They note his Muslim upbringing, his mother’s Muslim sympathies (she married two of them), his Muslim schooling in Indonesia (where he was registered as a Muslim), and the doctrine of taqiyya, under which it would be OK for him to lie about his religious beliefs if it’s to his political advantage. They go on to talk about his evident lack of seriousness in combatting terrorism, his hostility to the United States and to its ordinary religious believers, and his willingness to buddy up to Islamic tyrants like Ahmadinejad. In short, they adduce evidence—quite a lot of it. It’s short of conclusive, in my view, but it’s not insignificant, and I’m not sure why Eleanor Clift and her ilk think that it’s all dispelled by his nominal religious affiliation, the sincerity of which is the very thing under question.

    This is one of the many cases in which “sophisticated” opinion seems a lot less sophisticated than the opinion of the guy at the local milkshake stand.

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